17 Lessons Sports Professionals Learned During COVID-19

By FanWord

Without a doubt, the Coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on the sports industry. From stories about record-breaking drops in sports sponsorships to suspensions of entire league operations, it hasn’t been easy to find sparks of hope in our news feeds since the first couple of leagues came to an abrupt end mid-March.

But recently, more and more sports are slowly beginning to come out of the dark. Whether it’s the return of the PGA Tour or NASCAR’s season restart in May, it’s certainly a positive sign for sports fans and professionals alike. 

Sure, playing in empty stadiums or in front of 12,000 cardboard cutouts makes for a different experience, but it’s also inspiring to witness the ingenuity and relentless work ethic going into bringing sports back to a viewing audience.

While the coming months continue to remain a blurry picture, we think it’s important to note the positives in this remarkably challenging time as well.

So, without any further ado, in hopes of helping some of our readers deal with these uncertain times, here are 17 lessons that sports professionals learned during COVID-19.

What is the number one thing you’ve learned about yourself since COVID-19 and how is it going to impact your life/work moving forward?

1. Mark Fine

Vice President, Team Marketing | BSE Global

It’s given me a great time to be reflective and see how I can better myself both professionally and personally. Also, I have far more gratitude in what I have with the love of my family, my dog and the great company I work for.

2. Mitch Ried

Vice President Sales & Marketing | Louisville City FC

How important the work/life balance is to your overall mental health. The time I have been able to spend with family as I work from home has been one of the greatest gifts.

3. JB Greer

Director, Player Marketing (Baseball) | Octagon

I think the number one thing I’ve learned has been the importance of communication. Of course this means Zoom calls and video chats, but it also means mixing in random phone calls or FaceTimes with team members as a replacement for being able to just pop into an office with an idea or a question. Since we’re all at home every day it’s been productive to check in “face to face” as if we were back in the office. The line between personal and professional communication has probably been blurred more than usual, but it’s allowed for more productive conversations.

4. Jarrett Nobles

Director, Business Development | Los Angeles Chargers

Viewed strictly through a professional lens, COVID-19 has taught me that there are always circumstances beyond your control that will impact your business. As a result, I’ve done my best to manage my emotions and focus on controlling the things I can control (effort and attitude). Moving forward, I believe that I’ll be better prepared when minor or major disruptions occur.

5. Bianca Bohn

Membership and Events Coordinator | Ontario Basketball Association

Working in events, the idea of cancelling an event(s) you’ve worked on creating or preparing for months is quite upsetting. This being said, I learned through COVID-19, how to spin event cancellations into a lesson for future projects. In this case, my favourite word has become “pivot” as everyone tries to figure out the next best move for their role.

6. Kraig Doremus

Assistant Director of Athletics, Media Relations | Mercer University

It is okay to slow down and take a break. There is no need to be attached to your phone 24/7. While it’s important to work hard and always be the best that you can be , it is also vital that you set aside time for your personal life and don’t burn yourself out. Establishing a work-life balance is necessary, and this quarantine has helped me take positive steps in creating one.

7. Mike Shaw

Vice President, Head of Experience & Innovation| Miami Marlins

I realized many of my (pre COVID-19) hobbies, projects, and tasks kept me busy, but those activities were actually distractions. My goal is to do more of the things that make a real impact in my life and the lives of others.

8. J.W. Cannon

Senior Director, Sports Alliances | American Cancer Society

That I’m not really a misanthrope! I think we all have the tendency as we get older to be less social, but it turns out I actually miss interacting with people. And while I can survive working virtually, teleconferencing isn’t the same for me as genuine human interaction. Ask me at this time next year if that still holds true, though. 🙂

9. Kenny Pordon

League Marketing Director | XFL

COVID-19 has taught me that the only constant in this world is change. The #1 skill of the future is adaptability and those who have a growth mindset and find ways to innovate and ideate during this challenging time will emerge as the leaders of tomorrow.

10. Mitch Sharma

Manager, Sports Sponsorships | TD Bank

Seizing the moment. While it’s a widely used cliche, life’s fragility has never been more apparent. Thus, utilizing this thinking has allowed me to pursue acquiring new talents with the extra time I’ve received, while also refreshing old ones I have forgotten. At the same time, I am also bringing that mindset into my work by focusing on how TD can pivot it’s strategy within sports sponsorships.

11. Chris DeRuyscher

Senior Director – Ballpark Entertainment – Productions and Promotions | Texas Rangers Baseball Club

I’ve always tried to be the same person in stormy times that I am outside of them, this time has shown that to be true. COVID-19 and the challenges that it’s brought haven’t beaten me or my family, but it’s sure tried. My God is my anchor and my resolve is strong as ever. This time has proven that.

12. Nate Black

Partnership Activation Coordinator | Tampa Bay Lightning

Lead with empathy and understanding. COVID-19 has put a lot of things in perspective, and has made me appreciate all that I have. Connecting with people on a personal and 1-1 level especially during this time has really helped. We are all in this together and you never know what someone else is going through.

13. Dr. Andrew T. Goodrich

Deputy Director of Athletics & Chief Marketing Officer | Syracuse University Athletics

This experience allowed me to understand how fragile both life and our careers can be, yet it also reminded me how resilient we can be, how important of a role sport plays in the lives of people all over the world, and how important genuine relationships are as we are all in this together. Going forward, I’m going to enjoy every challenge, every victory, and every opportunity to help a student-athlete live out his or her dream.

14. Lydia Knoll

Assistant Manager of Digital Publishing | Adidas

During COVID, I’ve realized that one of my favorite parts of my job is the outlet for and exposure to creativity. Without the constant creative energy from the office, I’ve found myself seeking creative inspiration elsewhere — reading books, spending time in nature, writing.

15. Howard Berzack

Senior Manager | Wasserman

This experience has served as a strong reminder to explore true fulfillment outside of a career. We have become accustomed to an endless supply of activities outside of work that serve as distractions so we rarely consider the things that are meaningful. I have learned to be more intentional about how I spend my time and appreciate so many things I had previously taken for granted. Looking forward, I hope we will all be much more grateful, empathetic, and caring human beings!

16. Caitlin Tamony

Marketing & Digital Director | IMG

I’ve learned that when I consistently find joy in the little things, my days feel much brighter regardless of the challenges or disappointments that arise. Being in lockdown and having a much more repetitive and predictable schedule has given me time to slow down and take in life around me more deeply than before (I now have 100+ photos of flowers and foliage from outdoor walks during this time). I’m considering nearly everything from a different perspective and diving deeper into interests I didn’t think I had time for before. Because of this shift, I feel my creativity and passion for life reignited. I’m writing more, learning more, and not taking simple pleasures for granted! I have a renewed appreciation for human connection, resilience, and the importance of nurturing relationships…I hope to carry all of these values into every chapter after this.

17. Matt Villareal

Creative Director, Basketball Recruiting | Gonzaga University Athletics

I’ve learned the importance of mental, spiritual and physical discipline. I realized without feeding myself daily in these three areas, I cannot be the employee or (more importantly) the person I want to be.


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